MILF says DDR not acceptable as framework for peace negotiations

MILF chief peace negotiator Mohager Iqbal

MILF chief peace negotiator Mohager Iqbal

The government’s new framework of Disarmament, Demobilization and Rehabilitation (DDR) is not the proper framework for a peace pact and will not lead to one, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) told Jiji Press Wednesday, even as it said it remains committed to the peace talks.

“(A peace pact) is not possible under the DDR,” said MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal in an interview with Jiji Press. The DDR, Iqbal said, is a “military approach” and is actually the last agenda item in the peace talks.
“It falls under the post conflict issues,” he said. “(As a framework for the talks) it is not acceptable to us.”

Iqbal said the government’s change of policy on the peace process has made him less optimistic about the possibility of signing a peace pact with the Arroyo government.

“There is less reason for me to be optimistic given the fact that the government changed its policy on the peace process instead of trying to forge an agreement,” he said.

When Mindanao local government officials filed a petition before the Supreme Court questioning the draft memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD) that the government panel was about to sign with the MILF last August, the government did a quick about-face and said that the agreement was not read by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and that the panel had no authority to sign such agreements on behalf of government.

In frustration, several MILF ground commanders attacked civilian towns in Mindanao. The government then said that because of the attacks, it was not signing the MOA-AD and that the peace efforts with the MILF would be refocused in the context of DDR (disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation).” It also dissolved the peace panel negotiating with the MILF and is yet to form a new one.

Iqbal however denied government claims that their counterparts only had authority to negotiate but not to sign.

The authority of each panel was always presented in each meeting, Iqbal said. “Sometimes written authority had to be produced by both parties…the authority to commit their principal.”

Iqbal also said they would not surrender the MILF commanders now wanted by the government for the attacks on the towns in central Mindanao.

“That is a violation of the ceasefire. There are provisions (in the ceasefire) that erring members of AFP/MILF will be investigated by their principals and if found guilty, punished by their own principals,” Iqbal said.

Iqbal said the MILF will continue to fight for and push for the MOA-AD, which they consider a done deal, “in any forum, in any form, and with whatever means.”

The MILF is considering “many options,” Iqbal said, but preferred to keep these confidential in the meantime.

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